On Nov. 3, Salado Independent School District voters will elect three board members to three-year terms on the Salado ISD Board of Trustees. Candidates are Kim Bird, Troy Byrd, Savannah Hennig and Troy Smith.
Early voting continues through Oct. 30. There are several early voting locations in Bell County. On election day, Bell County registered voters may vote at any Bell County polling location, not just their home precinct. Precinct 203 voting will be at the Salado Church of Christ Activity Center, 217 Church St. in Salado.
Question 1: Salado ISD has the highest property tax rate of all nine school districts in Bell County Tax Appraisal District at $1.3747 per $100 valuation. The tax rate for debt service (I & S) is maxed out at $0.50000 per $100. Do you see any major capital projects within the next decade that should be planned for now? If so, what do you see as the most important capital need for the district and how can it be funded? (250 words)
Question 2: The base teacher salary in Salado ISD for 0 years experience and Bachelor degree is $45,299. State minimum is $33,660. Belton ISD pays base salary of $50,500. Killeen ISD pays $50,300. Temple ISD pays base salary of $50,225. How does Salado ISD improve its competitiveness in hiring teachers while keeping property taxes down? (200 words)
Question 3: Should Salado ISD reconsider its transfer student policy? Why or why not? (150 words)
Question 4: Does Salado ISD do enough to prepare non-college bound students? Are there vocational offerings that Salado ISD does not offer that it should? If there are, how would you advocate for expanding vocational education? (150 words)
Question 1: Situated along the I-35 corridor and fifty times geographically larger than the Village of Salado, future growth is inevitable for Salado ISD. As we plan for continued growth, we must be fiscally responsible. Bell County property values have outpaced our district’s conservative growth projections. Accordingly, the SISD School Board voted to lower the tax rate for the past two years, from $1.54 to $1.37 per $100 valuation. Increased growth will allow the district to pay off past bonds sooner giving SISD residents more flexibility in prioritizing future projects without increasing the current I & S (Interest & Sinking) tax rate.
Capital needs for the district in the next decade will need to address overcrowding at the high school, improving and expanding agriculture education facilities and providing additional elementary classroom facilities.
Question 2: A longstanding goal of Salado ISD has been to recruit and retain outstanding teachers, administrators and staff members. Although SISD offered salaries that were competitive with other school districts our size, teachers were lost to larger districts offering higher salaries with better funding from the state. In 2016, SISD set an ambitious goal to increase the salary schedule to address this situation. Using the Texas Association of School Boards salary information for mid-size schools (1,600 to 4,999 students), SISD (2,075 students) raised salaries to the median for this range for each position and experience level. Additionally, SISD’s salary schedule does not cap out at 20 years of experience like the state salary schedule but continues to offer an annual salary step increase until 40 years of experience. Over the past 7 years, the starting teacher salary in Salado ISD has increased 33.7%.
Salado ISD continues to attract outstanding applicants because of its reputation for excellence. Teachers do not just want to work in the district, they also want to have their children educated here. This is an important benefit to many of our employees.
The SISD faculty is working harder than ever to provide excellent educational opportunities for students during this pandemic. The district must continue to provide the support and resources required for them to be successful.
Question 3: Salado ISD took board action in November of 2016 changing the transfer policy. SISD no longer accepts any new out-of-district transfer students except the children of staff members and active duty military personnel. These students must apply and be accepted based on their academic performance, behavior and attendance, as well as the district’s space available at that campus and grade level. Future growth may require the SISD School Board to revisit this decision and further limit these students. However, as mentioned in the previous question regarding salaries, allowing teachers to bring their children to school in Salado has been an important employment benefit that not only helps recruit outstanding staff but also retain them.
Question 4: Salado ISD must continue to ensure that every student is prepared to successfully transition to post graduate life including immediate entry into the workforce or higher education. Programs that result in a license or certificate at graduation contribute to the attainment of this goal. One such program that has become successful since its inception in 2017 is the Health Science program at Salado High School. Students matriculate through a four-year program that prepares them for success in a variety of health fields and culminates with them obtaining a certificate in phlebotomy.
SISD adopted a list of district goals for 2020-21 that included the following: Investigate additional career and technical education (CTE) course offerings for our middle school and high school students and add three additional opportunities for students to earn an industry certification. The agriculture department has long taught skills that can lead to licenses and certifications in areas such as welding. Upgrading the equipment and facilities to industry standards will make this possible. More recently, our Computer Science program has expanded to add courses and opportunities to lead to certifications in the future.
Question 1: Presently, we have a high tax rate. It is the highest it can be due to the Bond that built the new Jr High School which was very much needed. Within the next two years its is possible that two existing bonds will be paid off which will help in lowering the tax rate. With more houses being built in the area this will increase the tax volume to also help in lowering the tax rate.
Salado Independent School District is growing as everybody knows. Within the next ten years Salado ISD could have 1,000 more students. That is 100 added students per year. There needs to be plans now for the future.
Although a new Jr. High has just been built, the school will soon be over populated and facilities will have to be addressed. The current High School building is using portables and teachers are sharing classrooms.
TAE 1 & TAE 3 are the oldest buildings and the most outdated. These will need to be expanded to accommodate more students.
We need to accommodate the Fine Arts Department and the Band who both have won multiple State Championships throughout the years. As of now they practice and perform on the stage in the High School Cafeteria.
The Agriculture Department needs to be expanded. They are teaching in a portable (that was when I taught at the high school) and the shop area is outgrown.
We need to have a larger sports complex that can house football, soccer, track and any other outdoor sports the district offers in the future. The stadium needs to be placed between the high school and jr. high. Facilities need to include dressing rooms for all sports. The new track needs to be 8 lanes vs the current 7 lanes the district has.
Let’s start planning now to make Salado ISD the best in the state.
Question 2: Comparing Salado teacher salaries with Killeen, Temple and Belton is like comparing apples and oranges.
Those districts are larger districts. Killeen ISD has 4 current high schools, 12 jr. high/middle schools and 32 elementary schools. The 4 high schools average 2349 students.
With that being said being a former teacher I believe teachers are under paid across the state and nation. I have always believed teachers should be paid double of what they are currently paid.
I taught at Salado High School and I have taught at Harker Heights Ellison, Shoemaker and Killeen High. Killeen ISD does pay better than Salado ISD, but it is a totally different teaching experience and culture inKilleen ISD. Teaching at Salado High School was a breath of fresh air. You could actually teach!
Salaries are based on the Salado ISD budget each year. Salado falls in the middle of mid school pay. My understanding is teacher salaries do not affect property taxes.
Salado is on the lowest funded school district list and the state legislature needs to be more equitable with the funding to help with teacher salaries.
Salado ISD is a great place to teach and the students are exceptional.
Question 3: Salado should reconsider its transfer policy and consider to revise it in some criteria areas. Transfer students can transfer for at no charge into the district vs paying a fee. The district receives funding for
each transfer student each year. This extra funding means more new money into the budget that helps toward teacher salaries to make Salado more competitive in hiring good teachers and keep the current good staff we have now.
Class rankings at Salado High School have been a topic of conversation over the past years. The criteria to revise would be if a student transfers to Salado after their 10th grade year they can’t compete for the top 2 Class ranks. I don’t think it is fair to current students that have been in Salado ISD their whole school career or their 4 years in Salado High School. I believe that a transfer student that comes in after their 10th grade year does not have enough invested in Salado Independent School District as the student.
Question 4: No, Salado ISD needs to provide more for non-college bound students. Not all students are college bound or have an interest in attending college. Salado needs to reach out to all students by offering a Health Science Program and Welding, but needs to find a way to advocate and fund more vocational offerings also.
Salado should advocate vocational offerings such as Automotive, Building Trades, Cosmetology, CMA/CNA, and other health field jobs. These are just a few suggestions. A survey of high school students should be conducted to find the interests of the students. After the survey is done a committee of parents and educators can work with the board to find funding for these programs.
Another way to advocate these vocational programs would be to create a Co-op with other local districts in the area that are the size of Salado. Trade classes could be shared at different district sites.
At one time Salado ISD was part of a Special Education Co-op with other districts. It worked for all concerned. Why can’t a Vocational Co-op work if Salado ISD can’t do it alone.
We need to think of ALL our students and prepare them for their futures.
Question 1: Salado ISD’s Maintenance and Operations (M&O) tax rate is one of the lowest rates in the state at $0.8747 per $100 valuation, a decrease of almost $.10 from 2019. Our I&S rate was voter passed in May 2018 and has remained at $.50 per $100 to pay off our bond debt as quickly as possible. Of the district’s five bonds, one is our most recent from 2018, and two will be paid off in 2023. The last two are callable in 2022 and 2024, and it is the district’s goal to significantly pay these down. Our district is growing, on average, at a rate of 100 students per school year. Additionally, Salado has more than 1,000 planned future residential lots. In a quickly growing district, the most immediate capital need will be adequate capacity. Within the next decade we will face increased facility challenges by reaching and surpassing classroom, campus, and athletic facility capacities. By paying off our bond debt now, we are providing the ability to prepare for inevitable growth while maintaining a balanced budget and being prudent with taxpayer dollars. When necessary, funding large projects such as these will involve a community planning committee, board approval and eventually passing a bond, and paying off our current bond debt will allow the district the ability to sell future bonds without increasing taxpayer dollars.
Question 2: While Belton, Temple and Killeen are in close proximity to Salado, they are vastly larger school districts; therefore, salaries of these districts are not an apples to apples comparison. Salado ISD has 4% of the student population of Killeen ISD based on the Texas Education Agency’s (TEA) 2019 enrollment. When looking at other schools in our football district, the average beginning salary is $39,201 per TEA. Additionally, the Texas Association of School Boards states that the median starting salary across Texas is $44,000.
That being said, Salado ISD must strive for competitive pay with local districts and has made incredible strides toward this in recent years, including this year with an almost 8% pay increase for a teacher with 0 years experience. Additionally, Salado ISD was able to do this while decreasing our tax rate by almost $.10 per $100 valuation from 2019. Quality of life and work are also important, and we routinely see teachers leaving Belton, Temple and Killeen ISD for Salado ISD because of our administration, support for teachers, and school functionality. These assets as well as Salado ISD’s continued prioritization of salaries in our budget is how we will maintain competitiveness with districts in our area.
Question 3: As mentioned above, the student population for Salado ISD increases by an average of 100 students per school year, and continued growth is coming. Students are eligible for transfer to Salado ISD in several scenarios, but as of January 2017 there is no longer an open transfer policy. The reason for this is to mitigate growth and afford the district time to prepare. We already know that within the next decade we will be facing another capacity challenge, and in a district that is growing as quickly as ours, it is sensible to prioritize the families living within Salado ISD.
Question 4: Last week I mentioned vocational programs as an area for improvement, and I would love to see our vocational programs expanded so that students who have an interest in a trade certification or degree can gain experience in that field prior to graduation. Salado ISD recently started computer science and health science programs, and we’ve had welding classes for quite some time. While college is a wonderful option, it is not the only option. Our country is seeing an increased need for vocational tradespersons such as electricians, carpenters, mechanics, etc. Realistically, in order to implement additional vocational classes there must be adequate demand for them. Proving there is a demand is the first step in advocating for an expansion of these programs, and I would like to see a student survey taken for vocational career interests and then begin pursuing how we can meet that need
Question 1: Salado ISD’s property tax rate consists of a maintenance and operations (M&O) tax rate and an interest and sinking (I&S) tax rate. The M&O tax rate provides funds for the day to day operations of the district, while the I&S tax rate provides funds for payments on the debt that finances the district’s facilities. In 2018, voters approved an increase in our I&S rate to construct the new middle school and make numerous improvements across the district. At our August 2020 school board meeting, we approved a decrease of our M&O rate by almost 10 cents. Our M&O tax rate is now the lowest in Bell County.
On a percentage basis, Salado is the fastest growing district out of 76 school districts in the Waco region. If we continue at our current growth rate, I expect the need for additional capital projects within the next ten years. We may need to consider the purchase of additional land and increasing the functional capacity of our high school. Property values are increasing significantly around Salado and our current high school has a “functional capacity” of 692 students while our current enrollment at that campus is 659. As the campus continues to grow, we will need to make decisions around maximizing the space, utilizing portable buildings, and making additional facility improvements.
Funding for projects financed by our I&S budget can be accomplished though several mechanisms, such as early bond repayment, debt restructuring, and the organic growth of our tax base.
Question 2: One of the priorities for the school district over the last several years has been to increase teacher compensation. Five years ago, the starting salary for a new teacher in Salado was $34,290. This year, it is up to $45,299. In the past, we were losing experienced teachers to larger school districts for higher salaries. While we have not caught up with these larger districts, it is a difficult comparison due to the natural economies of scale that larger school districts achieve and the greater federal funding that many larger districts receive. We have brought our teacher pay in line with what the Texas Education Agency refers to as mid-sized districts, which have student enrollments between 1600-4999. At a minimum, our goal every year is to meet this standard. Today we are hiring more teachers from those larger districts because the pay is more comparable, and they appreciate the teaching environment Salado provides. Despite the funding challenges Salado faces, we have been able to achieve this growth in teacher pay because it has been a priority to hire and properly compensate the best and brightest faculty possible.
Question 3: Our current transfer policy limits transfer students to the children of employees, children of military parents, and siblings of current transfer students. Due to the policy change in 2016, transfer student numbers are decreasing and lower than in previous years. Because of our growth, I believe we need to continue to limit our transfer student numbers. However, transfer students do provide Salado ISD with significant additional state funding. These dollars allow us to keep teacher pay competitive and assist our district in providing students the resources they need to be successful in the classroom. Our transfer numbers should continue to decrease as our organic growth increases. It is a delicate balance and I feel we are currently doing a good job finding the balance between transfer student enrollment and state funding.
Question 4: We have successfully expanded our vocational training programs over the last several years. Not all students go on to complete post-secondary education and we need to offer quality programs to prepare those students for life after school. In addition to our vocational programs, we currently offer AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination), which assists students in developing skills for their future, such as critical thinking, collaboration, reading, writing, and relationship building. We need to continue to expand our agriculture sciences and health sciences programs, as well as many others. Under our agriculture science program, we currently offer several certificates including welding, veterinary medicine, and floral design. Larger districts can offer opportunities from car mechanics training to supply chain logistics. For our size, I believe we do a good job of offering a diverse array of vocational training. However, as the district continues to grow, we need to consider adding additional vocational programs to our curriculum.